Packed with dramatic true stories from one of European history’s most romantic and turbulent eras, this epic narrative chronicles the five vividly rendered queens of the Plantagenet kings who ruled England between 1299 and 1409.
“A thorough and illuminating survey of the Plantagenet dynasty.”—Publishers Weekly
The Age of Chivalry describes a period of medieval history dominated by the social, religious, and moral code of knighthood that prized noble deeds, military greatness, and the game of courtly love between aristocratic men and women. It was also a period of high drama in English history, which included the toppling of two kings, the Hundred Years War, the Black Death, and the Peasants’ Revolt. Feudalism was breaking down, resulting in social and political turmoil.
Against this dramatic milieu, Alison Weir describes the lives and reigns of five queen consorts: Marguerite of France was seventeen when she became the second wife of sixty-year-old King Edward I. Isabella of France, later known as “the She-Wolf,” dethroned her husband, Edward II, and ruled England with her lover. In contrast, Philippa of Hainault was a popular queen to the deposed king’s son Edward III. Anne of Bohemia was queen to Richard II, but she died young and childless. Isabella of Valois became Richard’s second wife when she was only six years old, but was caught up in events when he was violently overthrown.
This was a turbulent and brutal age, despite its chivalric color and ethos, and it stands as a vivid backdrop to the extraordinary stories of these queens’ lives.
Packed with incredible true stories and legendary medieval intrigue, this epic narrative history chronicles the first five queens from the powerful royal family that ruled England and France for over three hundred years.
The Plantagenet queens of England played a role in some of the most dramatic events in our history. Crusading queens, queens in rebellion against their king, seductive queens, learned queens, queens in battle, queens who enlivened England with the romantic culture of southern Europe—these determined women often broke through medieval constraints to exercise power and influence, for good and sometimes for ill.
This second volume of Alison Weir’s critically acclaimed history of the queens of medieval England now moves into a period of even higher drama, from 1154 to 1291: years of chivalry and courtly love, dynastic ambition, conflict between church and throne, baronial wars, and the ruthless interplay between the rival monarchs of Britain and France. We see events such as the murder of Becket, the Magna Carta, and the birth of parliaments from a new perspective.
Weir’s narrative begins with the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to Henry II established a dynasty that ruled for over three hundred years and created the most powerful empire in western Christendom—but also sowed the seeds for some of the most destructive family conflicts in history and for the collapse, under her son King John, of England’s power in Europe. The lives of Eleanor’s four successors were just as remarkable: Berengaria of Navarre, queen of Richard the Lionheart; Isabella of Angoulême, queen of John; Alienor of Provence, queen of Henry III; and finally Eleanor of Castile, the grasping but beloved wife of Edward I.
Through the story of these first five Plantagenet queens, Alison Weir provides a fresh, enthralling narrative focusing on these fascinating female monarchs during this dramatic period of high romance and sometimes low politics, with determined women at its heart.
In the first volume of an exciting new series, bestselling author Alison Weir brings the dramatic reigns of England’s medieval queens to life.
The lives of England’s medieval queens were packed with incident—love, intrigue, betrayal, adultery, and warfare—but their stories have been largely obscured by centuries of myth and omission. Now esteemed biographer Alison Weir provides a fresh perspective and restores these women to their rightful place in history.
Spanning the years from the Norman conquest in 1066 to the dawn of a new era in 1154, when Henry II succeeded to the throne and Eleanor of Aquitaine, the first Plantagenet queen, was crowned, this epic book brings to vivid life five women, including: Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror, the first Norman king; Matilda of Scotland, revered as “the common mother of all England”; and Empress Maud, England’s first female ruler, whose son King Henry II would go on to found the Plantagenet dynasty. More than those who came before or after them, these Norman consorts were recognized as equal sharers in sovereignty. Without the support of their wives, the Norman kings could not have ruled their disparate dominions as effectively.
Drawing from the most reliable contemporary sources, Weir skillfully strips away centuries of romantic lore to share a balanced and authentic take on the importance of these female monarchs. What emerges is a seamless royal saga, an all-encompassing portrait of English medieval queenship, and a sweeping panorama of British history.
Praise for Queens of the Conquest
“Best-selling author [Alison] Weir pens another readable, well-researched English history, the first in a proposed four-volume series on England’s medieval queens. . . . Weir’s research skills and storytelling ability combine beautifully to tell a fascinating story supported by excellent historical research. Fans of her fiction and nonfiction will enjoy this latest work.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Another sound feminist resurrection by a seasoned historian . . . Though Norman queens were largely unknowable, leave it to this prolific historical biographer to bring them to life. . . . As usual, Weir is meticulous in her research.”—Kirkus Reviews